The Sonoraville Firebirds went into the Area 3-AAA Duals with not just a goal to win the title, but the expectation to win it. Sometimes, however, failure shows the true character of a team.

Sonoraville fell short of the top spot, dropping a hard-fought finals match to Bremen 41-33 on Saturday, but showed their resiliency by picking themselves up off the mat, responding to adversity and defeating Coahulla Creek 52-16 in the true-second match to secure a trip to Class AAA State Duals this coming weekend in Macon.

Sonoraville coach Randy Steward, who has now taken the Firebirds to the state duals the last two years after taking over as head coach prior to last season, said it was a tough pill to swallow, not beating Bremen for the title, but he was proud of the way his team fought back to punch their ticket to Macon.

“At the end of the day, our goal was to make it down there (to Macon),” said Steward. “We definitely wanted to beat Bremen and win the area title, but that didn’t happen. The kids were down a little bit after we lost, but I let them take a few minutes and then we he had a good, spirited meeting before our match against Coahulla Creek for second. And the kids responded incredibly well.

“I couldn’t be any more proud of them. They did everything I asked of them these last two days at area duals, and now we’ll regroup, get some rest and we’ll be ready for State next weekend.”

Sonoraville got off to a dominant start on Friday at Area 3-AAA Duals (at Calhoun High) by defeating Calhoun 66-6 in their first match. That victory moved them into the semifinals on Saturday morning where they once again looked impressive by dismantling Murray County for a 65-12 victory and clinch their spot in the championship match against Bremen.

In the match against the Blue Devils, who claimed their second straight area title, Sonoraville fell behind 38-9 on the scoreboard before a furious rally that got them within 38-33 with one match to go. Bremen held on for a minor decision victory, however, in that final match to finish off their 41-33 win.

The Firebirds were led by a quartet of wrestlers that went undefeated in their four matches, including Eli Knight, Jayce Derryberry, Tyler Hunt and Trevor Burdick.

The run through the bracket was also bolstered by Allen Stone and John Knight, who collected three wins apiece, and Hector Arbos who went 2-0 in the tournament. Steward said his team going to State Duals for the second straight year is a part of the process of trying to build the program into a perennial contender on the state level.

“To me consistency is the key to any great program,” said Steward. “That is the mark of any top program is you have to be consistent. And sometimes you have to battle through it when things don’t go your way. The way we responded today says good things about the direction we’re going.

“Our expectations for State Duals are to win it. That’s been our goal since last year. And I think we not only have the goal to win it, but we have the opportunity to do it. With the talent we have on this team, we have a real shot to win it.”

Calhoun went 2-2 at area duals. They started off strong on Friday defeating Adairsville 60-21 to move on to face Sonoraville in the quarterfinals, where they fell 66-6. That loss set them up in the consolation bracket later on Friday against Ringgold with the winner getting the chance to move on to Saturday, and the Jackets came through with a clutch victory, 48-25, over the Tigers.

Calhoun’s run in the bracket came to an end on Saturday morning, however, with a 51-21 loss to Lovett.

Calhoun coach Michael Herndon said he was pleased with how his team performed overall despite the tough ending against the Lions.

“Our goal was to wrestle on Saturday and finish in the top eight, and we did that,” said Herndon. “Ringgold is a solid team, and we didn’t really know how that match would go, but we went out and wrestled well to stay alive. We won some tough matches and were able to beat them.

“Then I think this morning, we were just kind of happy to be here. Lovett is probable better than us as a team, but they aren’t 30 points better than us. We’ll take this result and try to continue to improve. All our focus has been on the team to this point, but now as we transition to the traditionals part of our schedule, that will shift to what is best for the individual wrestler. We’ll have a lot of competition for those 14 varsity spots. I expect the kids to work hard to try to be one of those 14 in each weight class, and I think the intensity in that practice room will ramp up some. We’ll do our best to get ready for area traditionals and try to qualify as many kids as we can for sectionals and state.”

Calhoun is scheduled to visit Sonoraville on Tuesday for a match at 5:30 p.m. Sonoraville will make the trip to Macon on Friday where they will wrestle McNair in their first match.